Post-Thanksgiving Recovery: The Holiday Festival of Lights!

The tasty gingerbread house in the lobby at the Grand Traverse Resort

The tasty gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Traverse Resort


Whew! What a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend it was! A little sun, a little rain – even a little snow – all slathered with lots of ferocious northern Michigan winds. (I’d forgotten about the famous “gales of November.”) But the frightful weather made it all the more enjoyable to gather indoors with family and friends, to renew old relationships and start some new ones. And, of course, to eat WAY too much food! Hey, it’s all part of the tradition…

Speaking of traditions, it’s great to hear that the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is reviving one of Traverse City’s favorite holiday rituals: the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. For decades, ever since the Resort’s early days back in the 1980s, its grounds and public areas were decked with thousands of twinkling lights and animated displays from late November into early January.

High school choirs and other entertainers would put on regular Christmas performances, and the whole celebration gave the season a bit of an elegant touch. But the decorations started to get a bit worn over time – and for several years the Resort decided it was better to skip the event altogether than put up the same tired displays.

This year, though, the Festival of Lights is bigger and better than it’s ever been. Resort management has invested about $15,000 in new interior décor this year, so there are LOTS of Christmas trees, poinsettias, and lights. (Want to know how many? Inside, over 600 feet of lighted garland, 70 poinsettias and 20 trees (the tallest is a full 20 feet) in the Grand Lobby and Gallery of Shops. Outside, there’ll be some 35,000 incandescent lights on 1,400 feet of light-strings and 225 feet of LED light-strings on trees along the Resort Boulevard and in front of the Tower & Hotel.)

But the best new treat of all is the edible display: an entire village constructed of gingerbread, created by the Resort’s pastry chef, David Sicotte. The village, which includes a 24-sq.ft. house surrounded by a 70-ft. picket fence, took 800 pounds of dough, 200 candy canes, 200 pounds of royal icing, and four stained glass windows made from 60 pounds of casted and poured sugar.

As always, Santa makes regular appearances on Saturday evenings from 4-6 p.m. The entertainers are back, too – the Traverse City Central High School Choral-Aires on Dec. 4, the Central High Symphony Strings on Dec. 9 and the Kingsley Jazz Prism on Dec. 11. There’s even a rumor about a Dec. 18 appearance by the Resort’s own Employee Choir. OK, I think it’s cool that a resort has its own choir!

As in previous years, the Resort is also conducting a Gingerbread House contest, and members of the public are invited to participate. The Holiday Festival of Lights is on display from now until Jan. 1. For more information on the Gingerbread House Contest Rules, contact the resort at 800-748-0303 or by e-mail at


About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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One Response to Post-Thanksgiving Recovery: The Holiday Festival of Lights!

  1. Patt says:

    We ALWAYS made it a ‘must do’ on our list of Holiday activities when our children we young! We’ll have to be sure to go there and check out the new displays this year, when our ‘adult children’ come home for a visit! They’ll LOVE going down ‘memory lane’ with a visit to GT Resort! (and I think it’s ‘cool’ too that they have their ‘own choir’!!)

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